DINER | “Crackle Creme” Specialty Creme Brûlée Eatery Opening Soon In Strathcona

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by Andrew Morrison | Get your spoons ready, folks. Crackle Creme (pronounced “crack le creme”) is a tiny, 450 sqft cafe currently under construction at 245 Union St. right next door to Harvest Community Foods on the western edge of Strathcona. It will specialise in the production of five creme brûlées. We can expect three mainstays – Vanilla Bean, Bailey’s, Durian – and two on rotation – possibly White Chocolate Raspberry and Matcha to start.

It’s a one man show owned by Daniel Wong, an enterprising young man and (very) recent VCC grad. His lack of restaurant experience shouldn’t be too much of an impediment, for people who dislike creme brûlée are exceptionally rare. What’s more, the once mighty dessert seldom shows up on dessert menus any more. Perhaps it became passé on account of its ubiquity…I don’t know.

I do know, however, that creme brûlée still invites endless variation, and that there are plenty of eateries for blocks around (with more on the way) that don’t serve the blowtorched sugar discs, which is to say that many of their dessert cards might go ignored in the near future by diners who get wind of this dedicated little alternative. Perhaps creme brûlée is ripe for resurrection.

Indeed, if this is a well executed, sweeter-than-usual trace of the food truck-inspired “do one thing well and the people will come” track, then there’s a good chance that it’ll enjoy line-ups this summer. A creme brûlée cafe is certainly a clever idea, and with waffles and coffee also on the menu, I trust the smell alone will draw in quite the crowd.

Thankfully, we don’t have long to speculate. Much of the equipment has already arrived (really, how much does he need?) and yesterday I found Wong in the space busily sanding down his countertops and counting down the three or four weeks until opening day.

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DINER | New Location Of Meat & Bread To Open On Yates Street In Victoria This July

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by Andrew Morrison | Frankie Harrington, Cord Jarvie, and Joseph Sartor are opening a new location of Meat & Bread - their third – at 721 Yates Street in Victoria, BC’s old Churchill Building. That’s between Douglas and Blanshard, so right in the heart of the city. It’s a heritage space – a little bit bigger than Meat & Bread’s Gastown location – and they have Craig Stanghetta reprising his role as designer. I don’t expect they’ll veer too far from the original modern-meets-heritage aesthetic, and the menu will still be anchored by their famous porchetta sandwich and either a vegetarian or grilled cheese. We can also expect a location-specific signature sandwich, much like Gastown has its meatball and Coal Harbour has its corned beef. They’ve only just taken possession and hope to start construction in early May for a July opening. Need work? They’re setting up interviews for core staff as we speak. Email your resumes to info [at] meatandbread.ca.

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DINER | The Juice Truck Gets Set To Open Brick & Mortar Location In Mount Pleasant

by Andrew Morrison | We recently took a look inside the upcoming brick and mortar location of The Juice Truck at 28 West 5th Avenue between Manitoba and Ontario.

Owners Zach Berman and Ryan Slater picked up the 5,000 sqft space (formerly Stanley’s Printing) back in August and have broken it up into three areas: storefront, commissary, and community space. The storefront will function as a 16 seat eatery/retail apothecary, selling juices, supplements, tinctures, teas, puddings and so on, with 3-4 quick and healthy breakfast and lunch items (vegan/gluten-free) from a menu designed by chef David Gunawan of Farmer’s Apprentice. The front doors are inset from the sidewalk, so expect a patio as well. The good folks over at Glasfurd & Walker (responsible for the branding of Meat & Bread, Wildebeest, among others) are doing the interior design.

The commissary component is massive, a high gloss testament to the success of a once fledgling mobile operation that is now looking to expand its reach beyond the Lower Mainland (it’s so great to see them outgrow the space that they shared with so many other food trucks next to Beta 5 on Industrial Ave – makes one wonder who will be next to leave the nest!). It accounts for some 3,500 sqft of pristine work space for juice production and cleanses, and as you can see from the shots above and below, it’s already looking pretty damn spiffy.

Finally, there’s the community space (the pinkish red room in the photographs). While it can and will seat 26 people for pop-up suppers and movie dinners, it will also be used for nutrition and fermenting workshops, yoga classes, kids activities, and more.

Juice production starts in April, and the retail/eatery frontage will open to the public (if all goes according to plan) on May 1st.

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DINER | First Look Inside “Cinara” – Highly Anticipated New Eatery On West Pender St.

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by Andrew Morrison | Cinara, the new 40 seat European/Italian eatery from La Pentola owner/chef Lucais Syme and his wife Jill, is set to open next week at 350 W. Pender. That’s the 1,500 sqft space occupying the main floor corner of the recently renovated Victoria Block at West Pender and Homer, right nexG door to our friends at The Paper Hound bookshop, across the street from the original location of Finch’s, and umbilically attached to the Victorian Hotel.

I took a look inside the highly anticipated eatery this morning and they look very close to being finished. The final building inspection is slated for this afternoon, so the place was a hive of activity. All of their staffing is done, and if all goes according to plan, they hope to do a trial run with friends and family on Wednesday night. If everything goes off without a hitch, they’ll offer their first proper service to the public on Thursday.

The dinner menu had me drooling. There’s plenty of small plates (duck pie, venison bresaola, humpback shrimp in bisque sauce, seafood antipasto); starters (prosciutto-wrapped rabbit terrine, corned veal tongue with fregola and clams0; mid-sized sharables (stuffed squid, coarse-grained polenta with nettles and pecorino); mains (beef shoulder with anchovy salsa verde, roasted branzino with sauce grebiche); plus dolce with a selection of cheeses. It all reads very well, and since we know who we’re dealing with in Lucais and Jill, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Vancouverites are in for a real winner here.

But what’s in a name? Here’s what we made of it when we broke the news of Cinara’s coming back in October:

“The name of the place – pronounced Chinara – is a nod to the humble artichoke (“Prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside,” Syme says). While it is one of several ancient monikers for the wild artichokes of the Levant and the thistle family’s Greek catch-all (Cynarae), Cinara is actually a place, an almost mythic island in the Aegean Sea (now known as Zinara). It was said to be home to some especially alluring Sirens, as well as a mysterious place of banishment. It was where the emperor Tiberius once sent a cheeky Greek named Zeno who dared to employ some flowery language in his presence. Cinara was also the name of a particularly greedy but irresistibly sexy ex-lover of the Roman lyric poet Horace (“the grief I knew in my cups when the delicious Cinara left me” – the poor dear)…Alas, Syme, as far as I know, is not a poet (lyric or otherwise) and, thank goodness, has not been banished from Yaletown. Operations at La Pentola will continue as normal.”

Cinara will be open for breakfast 7 days a week from 7am to 10am and for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 5pm until 10pm. Click through the photos below to get a feel for the room and to take a look at a draft of their dinner menu (subject to change, natch)…

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DINER | British Gastropub “The Fat Badger” To Open In The West End’s Old Le Gavroche

February 28, 2014 

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by Andrew Morrison | When Le Gavroche closed last month after some 35 years in business at 1616 Alberni, I half expected to see its old Victorian shell knocked down in favour of some crappy condo that a prominent architect staffed out to a junior with a lazy eye. Despite the best efforts of Chef Robert Guest, the place felt done after longtime owner Manny Ferreira decamped for Miradoro in the Okanagan, which sort of explains why a bailiff had to eventually slap a notice on the locked front door exclaiming $80,000 in unpaid rent. To put it another way, nobody went.

The good news, of course, is that it’s not going to be demolished to make way for the kinds of buildings that have robbed Coal Harbour of the personality it used to have. It’s been picked up by chef Neil Taylor, Ed Perrow, and Georgia Goritsas, the same triumvirate that brought us Espana on Denman Street two years ago. They signed the deal on the space earlier today.

It’s going to be a proper British gastropub, which makes sense since both Perrow and Taylor are English imports.

They’re calling it The Fat Badger.

“Before we opened Espana,” Perrow says, “Neil and I always talked about a doing a proper pub when we sat and reminisced about the places we used to drink at in Chiswick and Hammersmith.” So what does a “proper pub” mean? I’ve been told to expect some local craft beers plus a few British classics (London Pride, Fullers, etc.), a little “by the glass” wine list, a handful of cocktails, and Neil’s always reliably good food. “We want to keep the menu small,” Perrow points out, adding that the goal is to change it two or three times a week, “depending on what we are getting in fresh from local suppliers.”

Taylor says we can anticipate a “casual, warm environment” with British gastropub-style dishes. At dinner, “you can expect to see dishes such as roast pork belly with colcannon; black pudding and cider; grilled lamb with pea purée, morels and mint sauce; roast cod with spinach, baby onions, wild mushrooms and red wine; and some classics like Lancashire hot pot and braised oxtail with suet dumplings. Appetizers could feature potted Dungeness crab with buttered toast, fried pigs trotters with English mustard, or jellied ham hock and rabbit terrine with piccalilly.”

And what about lunch?

“For lunch we will have a delicious burger with aged English cheddar or even Stilton; a daily pie such as fish, steak and kidney pudding, chicken, ham and leek; and soups such as cock-a-leekie, Cullen skink, or game and lentil. For desserts, we will have dishes like eton mess, sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream, treacle tart with custard, lemon meringue pie and arctic roll, homemade ice creams, and a great selection of British and Irish cheeses. Bar snacks could include black pudding scotched eggs with HP sauce, hand-cut fries with curry sauce, London pride battered cod and chips with tartare sauce.”

Sounds great, but will there be roast beef and Yorkshires? Yes. Every Sunday, The Fat Badger will be tabling a special traditional roast, be it rib of beef with Yorkshire puddings and horseradish “or roast leg of lamb with mint sauce or roast pork shoulder with hot English mustard and apple sauce.”

The Fat Badger will be open for lunch and dinner, with brunch service on the weekends. Hours will probably be 11am to 11pm. Expect a quick turnaround on this. I imagine they’ll be ready for their first service at some point in April.

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DINER | Seigo Nakamura (Miku, Minami) To Open Downtown “Gyoza Bar” This Summer

February 26, 2014 

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by Andrew Morrison | Seigo Nakamura the owner of the Miku and Minami restaurants, has just taken possession of 620 West Pender St. in downtown Vancouver. Instead of continuing on with the aburi-sushi theme of his previous eateries, this newly renovated 2,700 sqft space will focus squarely on gyozas. Given Nakamura’s evident dedication to quality and doing things a little differently (Miku and Minami are both excellent originals), I trust that Gyoza Bar – as it’s being called – will be in the business of stuffing the little Japanese dumplings with all manner of unique and interesting flavours. I’ve been assured that there will be other items on the menu as well, but gyozas – ahem – will be king. Bonus: wine, sake, and beer on tap. Anticipate an opening at some point in June, 2014.

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DINER | Cozy, Japanese-Inspired “Basho Cafe” Opening This Week On East Hastings

January 29, 2014 

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Local food industry veterans Miju Kawai and Hiroshi Kawai are aiming to open a darling little Japanese cafe this week or the next with their daughter, Moeno. The 16 seater is called Basho, which means “place” in Japanese. It’s located at 2007 East Hastings St., just a block east of Victoria Drive.

Hiroshi and Miju are lifers. They owned a neighbourhood lunch spot in Yokohama before moving to Canada to open North Van’s Kokoro eatery in 1994. After selling it nearly a decade later, they opened Hiroshi’s Sushi Creations on Oak Street in 2005 (it’s now called Tokiwa).

Inspired by the neighbourhood coffee shops that they loved and hung out in on adventures in Tokyo and Berlin, the Kawai’s want Basho to be a den of coziness with small personal touches that give off genuine warmth. Almost everything in Basho is handmade by the family, from the furniture and stained glass by Hiroshi to the pottery, quilts and knits by Miju and the aprons and wood carvings by Moeno. All the plates, cups, and dishes were either sourced from local thrift stores or made by hand. The music is all vinyl.

In addition to Japanese sencha, genmaicha and bancha, Basho will be steeping 3 black teas, 1 rooibos, and 1 herbal tea, plus coffee from Hand Works Coffee Studio. For food, there will be lunch sets of salads, sandwiches, and rice bowls, not to mention house-baked sweets. Expect matcha flavours, Japanese style crème caramels, and mochi.

As it stands now, they’re  just one permit away from unlocking their doors. When they get the green light, the hours will be Tuesday through Friday from 7:30am to 4:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 4pm. In the meantime, you can follow them and stay up to date on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

BashoMiju Kawai, Moeno Kawai,  Hiroshi KawaiBasho Matcha shortcake with white chocolate fillingBasho CafeBasho CafeBasho CafeCoconut Matcha cookies @bashocafeBashoBashoBasho - lunch setBashoSesame Miso cookiesMatcha Latte Basho CafeBashoMoeno making matcha Basho CafeBashoBasho CafeBasho CafeBasho CafeBasho CafeSesame Miso cookies  at Basho Cafe

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DINER | “Rain Or Shine” Ice Cream Parlour Opens Up On West 4th Avenue In Kitsilano

November 13, 2013 

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by Andrew Morrison | A new ice cream parlour officially opened today on the West 4th strip in Kits. Rain Or Shine is a nine seat beauty brought to us by Josie Fenton and Blair Casey, two first timers with backgrounds in teaching and finance.

The pair were married just last year and they’re super gung-ho about feeding us high quality ice cream (made in the back using an Emery Thompson machine) without artificial flavours, corn syrup, or any nasties. They’re also wicked friendly, and share playful senses of humour and design; witness their ice cream tacos, weather report signage, milk bottle light fixtures, tractor seat stools, fetching aprons, and the horse shoe nailed to the wall behind their ice cream machine.

They offer fifteen flavours at a time – ten permanent “keepers” and five fluctuating “seasonal flings”. I tried a few yesterday – salted caramel, mint chocolate, stout, blueberry – and they were fantastic. Nearly all of their ingredients are locally sourced. Think honey from Campbells in Aldergrove, lavender from Octagon in Maple Ridge, apples from Taves Farm in Abbotsford, wine from Vancouver Urban Winery, espresso beans from JJ Bean, beer from Brassneck, et cetera.

The stuff that they can’t find locally – things like coconuts and ginger – are organic and fair trade. They use compostable packaging, and get their power from Cowpower, a local non-profit green electricity supplier that provides BC businesses, homes and events with renewable electricity solutions. They haven’t left out the vegans either, so top marks across the board.

I love the name, the location, the passion, and the branding by Glasfurd & Walker (see also Meat & Bread, Ask For Luigi, among many others). These guys are stoked about what they’re doing, and it comes across clearly and deliciously on the spoon. Check out some more photographs below…

1926 West 4th Ave | 12pm to 10pm Tuesday to Sunday (closed Monday) | rainorshineicecream.com

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OPENING SOON | Brand New & Much Larger “Chambar” Eatery Slated For Summer 2014

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by Andrew Morrison | I’ve been sitting on this story for a few months now, having agreed to keep quiet about it on the understanding that I’d be the first to tell it once the time was right and the ducks were lined in their proverbial row. It’s great to finally be able to break the good news about Chambar’s expansion.

With the end of their lease for Chambar and Cafe Medina on the horizon, owners Karri and Nico Schuermans, with Robbie Kane of Medina, have agreed to move out of their current side by side locations on Beatty Street. (For the sake of brevity, we’ll cover what Robbie has planned for Medina in a follow-up post and only cover Chambar’s move in this one)

The Belgian/Moroccan-themed themed Chambar, inarguably the most impactful restaurant to open in Vancouver in the last decade, will be moving into the building next door that is currently under the renovation knife (see the rendering below). They take possession of the two-level space very soon, and hope to have the “new” Chambar open at some point this summer (June at the very earliest).

The new restaurant will be roughly twice the size of the current one, with about 270 seats between two levels, a 50 seat patio, and private rooms that can fit 20 – 80 people. There are lots of opportunities for new design motifs to fit in with the old, but I suspect it will look very similar to the original. Yes, in addition to the branding, relaxed vibe, deep drinks programs, and casual flirtations with fine dining, much of its furniture will also be making the move, which is great news because who doesn’t love the original tables, couches, banquettes and button-ed up red booths? ”The layout will be just like the old Chambar,” Karri explains, pointing out how the front will be the lounge and bar area that narrows at the waist to open up into a dining room. “The new place has brick and beams, too,” she adds, referring to the core aesthetic of the original. One big change is that the wall that divides the patio from the interior will be glass (said patio will also have its all-day sunshine filtered by young trees – sounds awesome). Also making the move will be the staff, though they’ll definitely be needing to hire a lot more people considering the breadth of their expansion.

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The tiny kitchen will also grow, which will allow chef Nico and his team to do lots of smoked meats, sausages, breads, et cetera – the types of things that he’s always wanted to do but couldn’t on account of the diminutive nature of their original kitchen. “After a few years,” Nico says, “you think, I’m bored of this, I need to move on and the cooks want to see new stuff. We want to make everything in house now.” It’s widely known that Nico can cook at a much higher level than what he currently dishes out (trained at the Michelin-starred Villa Lorraine and toiled at Comme Chez Soi, the Savoy Hotel, and Sydney’s Alhambra), so it’s fair to wonder if the food will be slightly more elevated this time around. “I know, but the current concept works. People like it.” he says. “We’ll always have the mussel pots and the tagines, but the rest of the new plating will be seasonal, with the menu changing about every two months. I really want to focus on that, the farmers, all the way pushing for quality.”

They’re going to be making an entrance into the late night game, too, with a 20 item tapas menu for the expanded lounge and bar area (twice the size of the original with more casual seating arrangements). “People can come and have a meal, relax, have a bottle of wine.” Karri says, asking rhetorically “Where can you go late at night for a bottle of wine with a friend that isn’t a crazy loud pub?” Come to think of it, you could do that at breakfast, too, since the new Chambar will be open all day, serving breakfasts, lunches and dinners, plus brunches on weekends.

Construction starts shortly. Best case scenario: they are out of the original Chambar space in May and into the new Chambar a month later.

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DINER | Award-Winning Chef Lucais Syme To Open Cinara Eatery At Pender & Homer

October 8, 2013 

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by Andrew Morrison | La Pentola owner/chef Lucais Syme and his wife Gill have secured the 1,500 sqft ground floor corner space of the Victoria Block. That’s underneath the old Victorian Hotel at West Pender and Homer (350 W. Pender), right across the street from the original Finch’s and next door to the awesome Paper Hound. With it, they plan to open Cinara, a 40 seat eatery that will feature picture windows looking out onto the street, a small wine-focused bar, and an open kitchen plating contemporary European cuisine with a strong Italian accent. “It’s really our chance to cook from the heart,” Syme says. “We want to create simple, beautiful things.” And I expect that that’s exactly what we’ll get.

The name of the place – pronounced Chinara – is a nod to the humble artichoke (“Prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside,” Syme says). While it is one of several ancient monikers for the wild artichokes of the Levant and the thistle family’s Greek catch-all (Cynarae), Cinara is actually a place, an almost mythic island in the Aegean Sea (now known as Zinara). It was said to be home to some especially alluring Sirens, as well as a mysterious place of banishment. It was where the emperor Tiberius once sent a cheeky Greek named Zeno who dared to employ some flowery language in his presence. Cinara was also the name of a particularly greedy but irresistibly sexy ex-lover of the Roman lyric poet Horace (“the grief I knew in my cups when the delicious Cinara left me” – the poor dear)…

Alas, Syme, as far as I know, is not a poet (lyric or otherwise) and, thank goodness, has not been banished from Yaletown. Operations at La Pentola will continue as normal.

Cinara will be open for dinner only, but breakfasts could be added to the menu as the hotel continues its slow burn of boutiquification (a new lobby is also under construction). Predictions? Lucais and Jill are devotees of quality (witness their tenures at La Quercia and La Ghianda), so I’d be shocked if this wasn’t one of the best new restaurants of 2014. Construction starts this week and opening day is slated for some point in January.

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DINER | Mexi-Cali “Gringo” Set To Open Softly This Friday In Gastown’s Blood Alley

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by Andrew Morrison | As Michelle mentioned in yesterday’s Scout List, a new restaurant is opening very soon in the heart of Gastown. We first broke the news about Gringo last month when it was announced that Sean Heather had sold his Judas Goat eatery in Blood Alley to a former employee, Shoel Davidson, and industry lifer Christina Cottell. I recently met up with them for a tour of their tiny, 28 seat Mexi-Cali joint. The paint was still wet on the chairs so it was hard to navigate, but from any vantage point it was pretty unrecognizable from what it used to be. The upside is that what was formerly the kitchen pass is now a bar top. The downside is the loss of one of my favourite pieces of local restaurant art, the Judas Goat mural by Robert Chaplin, the story and pictures of which I’ve included below for posterity…

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Anyway, more tacos and Micheladas are coming to Gastown, so that’s a net gain. I’ve seen Karl Gregg’s menu – done in garish hot pink (like the neon “Gringo” sign that will replace Chaplin’s work) – and it’s a tidy soliloquy on the absence of gas burners and deep fryers. The corn tortillas will see either chimichurri-tossed shrimp, blackened cajun chicken with Ranch, your mama’s “taco” seasoned ground chuck, chili and vinegar braised pork, and a veggie option – so not exactly the authentic al pastors and longanizas that some taco fetishists might have been hoping for. But that’s the point of a Mexi-Cali restaurant. It’s not supposed to be what you find street-side in Querétaro or Guanajuato, but rather the stuff that sells in the strip mall across the street from the Walmart in suburban Sacramento. Accordingly, one can expect single servings of “Stadium Nachos”, mexi-dogs, mexi-rice, bar rail Long Island Iced Teas, and so on. If you want to eyeball the complete menu, have at it here.

It’s pretty cheap, unthreatening stuff, so I don’t expect they’ll go wanting for customers at lunch or dinner, which might prove a bit tricky considering how hamstrung the kitchen might get at capacity with some turnover (open until 2am on Friday and Saturday). Like Judas Goat before it, the concept seems like a buy-in to the notion that most visitors to Gastown check out more than one place during the course of an evening, and it’s clear that Gringo isn’t aiming to be the number 1 draw. Rather, I suspect they’ll see lots of people popping in and out prior/post hockey games, before and after suppers elsewhere, or simply for a quickie bite and a margarita after a shift (I trust they’ll see a brisk late night industry trade). They seem to bask in their limitations, even listing their tequila options as “crap” and “ok”. Such a lack of pretension is refreshing (even in a taco shack), which is to say that it won’t be hard to exceed people’s low expectations. It sounds fun to me. The soft opening is this Friday night [UPDATE: opening delayed until Tuesday]. Bonus: six seat patio in Blood Alley.

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DINER | Gastown’s “Revolver” Set To Open New Storefront Next Door Called “Archive”

September 27, 2013 

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by Andrew Morrison | The coffee wonks of the Giannakos family, owners of Cambie’s kickass Revolver, have been in possession of the vacant space next door for a long time now, humming and hawing about what to do with it for many months. They recently settled on a coffee-centric retail store that will also offer Revolver customers a further 20-25 seats. It’s to be called Archive, and they hope to have it complete and open to the public before Christmas.

Inside, we can expect brewing equipment, books, magazines, cups, mugs, filters – basically everything a hardcore coffee nerd would get excited about (they’ll even help customers design home coffee set ups). For seating, there’s a long communal table (a lovely-looking one at that) running the length of the space parallel to a stand-up bar. For those who take their Honduran Los Manos with a little work, there will be complimentary wireless.

The graphic design work is being sorted by the clever peeps at Post Projects, who are currently working with designer Craig Stanghetta on a wall installation based on the Dewey Decimal System, a sneak peek of which is tabled above (for our younger readers, the system is used in libraries to catalogue books). I’m also told that the stain of the wood – currently a light amber – will end up being a little darker.

There is talk of the two businesses – Revolver and Archive – becoming umbilically joined by way of a new door punched through the wall that currently divides them, but that likely won’t happen for a while yet. In the beginning, we’ll probably have to grab our coffee at Revolver, exit (because it’s full, natch) and go next door.

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DINER | East Van’s Excellent “Matchstick Coffee” Landing In Chinatown This Winter

September 26, 2013 

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by Andrew Morrison | The good folks at the Fraserhood’s awesome Matchstick Coffee Roasters have picked up a space in Chinatown. If you’re unfamiliar with Matchstick, they’ve been kicking ass at Fraser & Kingsway for coming up on two years now, squarely focusing on hand-crafted preparation of single-origin, high quality coffees. They’re working on getting their building permit for the 2,800 sqft space at 213 East Georgia – the same block as Mamie Taylor’s and Phnom Penh, and just a few doors in from Main Street - with the goal of opening up in the early new year. More details soon.

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